January 2022: Going back to square one

Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

After a two-month taste of normalcy, the country started 2022 seemingly back to square one, as COVID-19 cases spiked anew amid the threat of the highly-virulent Omicron variant.

Political figures also intensify their bid for seats in the government, with the future of a pandemic-stricken country resting on the choice of the public.

Hold on tight as we recount the wobbly roads and events that brought January back to a desolate state.

1. Record-high COVID cases and Omicron variant forces PH to reimpose stricter quarantine measures

Photo courtesy of Miguel de Guzman/The Philippine STAR

Hours before the New Year’s Day celebration, the Philippine government placed Metro Manila in Alert Level 3 from Jan. 3 to 15, 2022. This coincided with the Department of Health’s (DOH) announcement that it detected three local cases of the highly infectious Omicron variant.

Later, cities including Baguio, Cavite, and 80 others were also placed in Alert Level 3. Meanwhile, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and Northern Samar were in Alert Level 4, the second tightest quarantine classification.

This reimposition is brought by the spike in daily COVID-19 cases. The country has recorded its highest single-day tally on Jan. 14 with 37,017 cases and its highest active cases on Jan. 21 with 291,618 cases.

The Philippines also placed last anew on Bloomberg’s COVID Resilience Ranking with a score of 48.3 based on several metrics including COVID status, quality of life and progress on reopening the country among others.

2. Drugstores run out of branded paracetamol, flu meds amid COVID spike

Photo courtesy of Edd Gumban/The Philippine STAR

As the country experiences increased COVID cases and colder weather, some drugstores run out of branded paracetamol and other over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.

In social media, some people reported long queues outside drugstores, with popular medicine brands running out of stock.

Pharmaceutical companies Unilab and Zuellig Pharma confirmed there is a shortage of popular brands including BIoflu, Neozep and Solmux due to “extraordinary demand.” However, the DOH denied that there is a shortage of paracetamol and other OTC drugs and urged the public to avoid panic buying.

The Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines also encouraged the public to also seek out generic brands as it is just as “equally effective as its branded counterparts.

3. Thomasian clinches top spot at MedTech boards; UST named top-performing school at architecture boards

Jacqueline Martinez/TomasinoWeb

Five Thomasians landed in the top 10 of the January 2022 medical technologists licensure exams.

Kyle Magistrado topped the 2022 MedTech boards with a score of 90.40, followed by Natalie Regina Cu scoring 89.30 percent, Phil Isaiah C. Co and Ricsoon Lester Radam tied at sixth (88.10 percent), and Gian Searle Alkuino at seventh (87.70).

“If cramming works for you, then cram,” Magistrado wrote in a Facebook post where he revealed that he had less than three weeks to prepare for the MedTech board exams.

UST was the fourth top-performing school at the January 2022 MedTech Boards with 86 passers out of 107 examinees. Meanwhile, the University was the top performing school at the January 2022 architect licensure exams with an 87.94-passing rate with 124 passers out of 141 takers.

4. PATAFA drops EJ Obiena from nat’l roster

Photo courtesy of Jerome Ascaño

Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) dropped Olympian pole vaulter EJ Obiena from its national roster over falsified liquidation documents and late payments.

In its recommendation, PATAFA said that its investigative committee found that Obiena and his mother, former PATAFA auditor Jeanette Obiena allegedly misappropriated 61,026.80 euros (P3,661,608) and P624,116.76 of coaching fees for the Olympian’s Ukrainian coach Vitaly Petrov, respectively. The Association also recommended filing a criminal estafa complaint against Obiena over the P360,000 salary of Petrov for May to August 2019.

Obiena said he was “saddened, but not surprised” by PATAFA’s decision, but was relieved that he finally knew what he was being charged with. He also reaffirmed that he will keep representing the Philippines in international pole vaulting competitions.

In a statement, PATAFA said it “moves on” after Obiena “removed himself” from the Association’s jurisdiction by receiving necessary private backing. This was after Obiena’s camp rejected the Philippine Sports Commission’s three mediation offers while the Philippine Olympic Committee declared PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico persona non grata.

5. Puzzle game ‘Wordle’ keeps the internet guessing

Screengrab from Wordle

Have you seen these symbols online?

These colored blocks were from Wordle, an online guessing game where players try to guess a daily five-letter word. The colors represent clues for each guess, with black being a wrong letter, yellow a correct but misplaced letter and green a correct letter in a correct position.

The mystery word is the same for everyone and the players can share on social media how their attempt went through colored blocks. Wordle was created by American software engineer Josh Wardle for his partner who loved word games. After playing it for months, Wardle released the game publicly in October 2021.

Since its release, its player base grew exponentially, from 90 daily players in November 2021 to 2 million in January 2022. The game also spawned several clones, including its Filipino counterpart Saltong.

6. K-pop supergroup GOT the Beat debuts ‘Step Back’ — fans point out ‘problematic’ lyrics behind the catchy beat

Photo courtesy of SM Entertainment

SM Entertainment’s new female supergroup GOT the Beat dropped their first single ‘Step Back’ at SMTOWN Live 2022 last New Year’s Eve. GOT the Beat is SM Entertainment’s project also known as Girls on Top, which highlights the company’s female idols in different groups, composed of BoA, Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon and Hyoyeon, Red Velvet’s Seulgi and Wendy and Aespa’s Karina and Winter.

The entertainment company reported that the concert set a new record for the highest number of online views for a Korean concert with 51 million global streams, breaking last year’s SMTOWN concert record.

Some fans, however, pointed out that the song’s catchy beat hides problematic lyrics despite the song’s introduction as an “ode to women who are always proud and full of confidence.” In the song, a woman was warning another woman to “step away” from the man she likes. The former also accused the other woman of flirting with the man.

“It won’t be enough even if you’re born again / (Step back, step back) / you’re like a poison to the good boys / they become lonelier as they drink more,” the chorus, which drew ire from netizens, read. They also accused the song’s composer Ryan Jhun of writing women in the lyrics in a bad light, portraying them as “jealous” and “self-aborbed”.

7. Marcos Jr. no-show on COMELEC hearing, Jessica Soho presidential interview

Photo courtesy of Rappler

Former senator and late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. skipped the preliminary conference of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) First Division on his disqualification case after a close contact with two Covid-19 positive people.

Marcos Jr.’s counsel presented a medical certificate dated Jan. 6 stating that he was sick with fever and a congested throat as of 10 a.m. that day. Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon asked Marcos Jr. counsel if he cannot appear on the Zoom call “even if he doesn’t speak just so his presence can be noted.” Hanna Barcena, one of Marcos Jr. ‘s counsel, answered: “Yes, Your Honor, because we are afraid that he might cause the spread of the virus.”

Netizens poked fun at the counsel’s response, dubbing it as “Zoomicron” after the teleconferencing platform and the Omicron variant. They also pointed out that Marcos Jr. appeared in a radio interview despite “feeling unwell” according to his spokesman Vic Rodriguez.

Meanwhile, Marcos Jr. also opted out of GMA’s “The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews,” accusing veteran journalist Jessica Soho of “bias against the Marcoses.”

GMA Network rejected Marcos Jr.’s statement, citing that presidential candidates must expect hard-hitting questions from journalists. “The questions are tough because the job of the presidency is tough,” the network said.

8. Election 2022 in full swing as presidential candidates appear on interviews

Photo courtesy of GMA Network

Presidential candidates present their platforms on air and online as they try to court voters in the coming national polls.

Four presidentiables, namely Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and Senators Panfilo Lacson and Manny Pacquiao appeared on “The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews”, where former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos skipped because of Soho’s alleged “bias.”

The five were present in seasoned host Boy Abunda’s one-on-one presidential interviews on YouTube. Both Abunda and Soho asked the candidates for their stand on certain issues, including abortion for rape victims, rejoining the International Criminal Court and pornography on social media sites, among others.

The hosts also dug into controversies surrounding the candidates, from Lacson’s involvement in the Dacer-Corbito cases to Robredo’s reaction about the country needing an “iron-fisted” leader.

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, in partnership with ABS-CBN, CNN Philippines News5, One News, Bombo Radyo and DZRH is set to host a forum for presidential candidates on Feb. 4. The COMELEC said it targets to start national debates by the last week of February.

9. DOTr imposes ‘no vax, no ride’ policy

Photo courtesy of Walter Bollozos/The Philippine Star

In an attempt to curb rising COVID-19 cases, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) enforced a “no vaccination, no ride” policy in Metro Manila.

According to Department of Transporation (DOT) secretary Arthur Tugade, the Department Order 2022–001 will be in effect as long as the National Capital Region is under Alert Level 3 or higher, covering all modes of public transportation, including air, land, railway and sea.

Commuters slam the “draconian” policy, saying that it was also the Philippine government’s fault why vaccines arrived late in the country.

A vendor, Gemma Parina expressed her frustration in a now-viral video where she lamented how she needed to walk from her house to the market due to the new policy. “Naglalakad ako. Tingnan mo ang pahirap na ginagawa ninyo sa taong bayan. Umupo kayo dyan, binoto kayo namin para paunlarin ang bansa,” Parina said in an interview with Radyo Inquirer.

The DOTr later clarified that workers and people going home are exempted from the “no vax, no ride” policy. The transport department also gave a 30-day ultimatum for workers, saying that the exemption is only effective until Feb. 26.

10. Cartoon Network’s ‘Craig on the Creek’ features Bisaya lola

Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network’s animated show Craig of the Creek trended online as a video clip of an episode highlighted a character speaking Bisaya. In the season four episode of the show called “Sink or Swim Team,” a Filipino character named Eileen introduced the main character Craig to her lola who only speaks in Bisaya.

In the scene, the grandmother was watching television when she commented, “Ah maayo ra na sila sa sunod na salida,” which means “Ah, they’ll be fine in the next episode.” Eileen taught Craig that whenever they talk to her lola, they would do the “bless” or the common Filipino gesture of respect called “mano.” The grandmother also said “Ah, ka guapo, imu ning boyfriend?” (“Oh, he’s handsome, is he your boyfriend?”).

Craig of the Creek follows Craig and his two friends, Kelsey and JP, as they explore the wilderness at a creek in Herkleton, Maryland. People online praised the show for diversity and representation after it trended. As it turned out, the show’s supervising director is a Filipino-American whose grandparents were from Danao, Cebu.

Eileen’s mom in the show is also voiced by Filipino-American actress Deedee Magno Hall, who also voiced Pearl from “Steven Universe” (which featured an ube-flavored cake in one of its episodes).

11. Netizens slams arrest of 80-year-old man for allegedly ’stealing’ mangoes, points out ‘double standards’ in PH justice system

Photo courtesy of Asingan Public Information Office

Social media went abuzz after police jailed an 80-year old man for allegedly stealing mangoes in his former land in Asingan, Pangasinan last Jan. 13. Narding Floro was arrested for allegedly stealing 10 kilos of mangoes in someone else’s land.

Floro defended his actions, saying that he was only picking mangoes in the tree that he planted.

The old man also volunteered to pay for the mangoes, but the complainant insisted that Floro should pay the P6,000 bail.

After Floro’s mugshot went viral, several personalities, including Kim Atienza, Ryza Cenon and Rabiya Mateo offered to pay Lolo Narding’s bail. Local police officers also raised P10,000 to bail Floro according to Asingan police chief Police Major Napoleon Eleccion.

Meanwhile, netizens pointed out a double standard in the Philippine justice system, citing the late dictator’s widow Imelda Marcos, who was convicted for seven counts of graft by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court yet remained free after posting bail.

“Nakakalungkot ang nangyaring pag-aresto. Dito makikita ang double standard na hustisya sa ating bansa. Kapag mahirap, nakukulong. Pero kapag mayaman, nakakalaya,” human rights lawyer and senatorial aspirant Chel Diokno said.

One may feel a sense of déjà vu with all the unexpecting events that unfolded this month, like living inside a dark TV series, stuck on its equally-dark third season. Combine that feeling with the sense of helplessness while watching events unfold and you’ll feel like this country is just going around in circles the whole time.

Although the things that happened in the past two “seasons” of the pandemic cannot be rewritten, we have the power to write our country’s future this coming May. One can only hope that this choice will be used wisely so we can truly begin our long road to recovery.



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